Scuba Diving With Sharks (No Cage!) In South Africa

Protea Banks South Africa

Shark Diving in South Africa

Margate, South Africa

The ocean around me is filled with hungry sharks. In just a few minutes, the sea has become thick with them, approaching from all directions. My heart races.

I was under 30 feet of water, without a cage, off the coast of South Africa. It was impossible to keep track of all the sharks around me. I counted at least 9 in my immediate vicinity, with more dark shapes lurking in the murky depths below.

A nightmare scenario for those who are afraid of the ocean.

When most people think of sharks, they instinctively remember the horror movie Jaws. Razor sharp teeth. Beady black eyes. The ocean’s deadliest predator lurking beneath the waves, ready to strike without warning.

Protea Banks Boat Ride

Motoring Out to the Dive Site

Embracing Your Fears

You’d think that hanging out underwater in shark territory would be the most dangerous place to be in the ocean. However our fears are not always rational — more often they’re primal. Based on emotion rather than facts.

For most people, fear is something they avoid at all costs. For others, it’s what drives them. I consider myself the latter. It’s a personality trait known as sensation seeking — someone who thrives on adventure, risks, and sensory overload.

While swimming with sharks is not as dangerous as it seems, that doesn’t mean it won’t give you a good jolt of adrenaline anyway.

Strapping on the Dive Gear

Strapping on the Dive Gear

South Africa Shark Dive

This is actually not my first time scuba diving with sharks. I’d met them up close and personal once before in Fiji, also without a cage.

Sharks are beautiful, powerful, agile creatures. Capable of both extreme violence and incredible elegance. Attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, despite all the negative media attention they receive.

Don’t believe me? Talk with anyone who spends significant amounts of time with them. Like marine biologists or scuba dive masters. Sharks deserve respect, not irrational fear.

Yes, some species attack humans from time to time.

It happens when they mistake us for animals they normally eat, like seals. But deep underwater, in their world, these intelligent animals are smart enough to know we aren’t on the menu.

Protea Banks Sharks

Shark Selfie!

Diving Protea Banks

In fact, sharks are often more frightened of us. As our group of divers first descended under the waves at Protea Banks, we actually scared off a large tiger shark. Tiger sharks are responsible for the 2nd highest number of attacks on humans. Yet this one wanted nothing to do with us.

Too bad, as this is the type I was most looking forward to meeting!

Protea Banks is home to all kinds of different species of shark like Black Tips, Bull Sharks, Tigers, Great Whites, Ragged Tooth, Hammerheads, and many more. They come to feed on large schools of tuna that thrive here.

It’s one of the few places in the world you can dive with 12 foot Tigers.

On this dive we encountered mostly Black Tip sharks, 4 to 5 feet long. A school of them circled the bait ball, a plastic device filled with fish heads that sharks can’t actually eat. After initially keeping their distance, they relaxed and had no problem swimming up to say hi.

The bull sharks were more skittish. I could see a few down below. Bull sharks are responsible for the 3rd highest number of attacks on humans. I found it kind of funny that one of the most dangerous species of sharks was also the most scared of us.

Sharks are Incredible Animals

Sharks are Incredible Animals

Diving with Sharks at Protea Banks

Diving with Sharks at Protea Banks

Shark Conservation

We spent an hour diving with the sharks at Protea Banks before surfacing to return to the boat. I’ll never get sick of these experiences. Visiting the underwater world is about as foreign as it gets, aside from outer-space.

The more time you spend in the company of sharks, the more your fear of them is transformed into respect and admiration. Sharks are beautiful, marvelous creatures.

Unfortunately they are getting killed off at an alarming rate.

Millions of sharks are fished out of our oceans annually. No wonder they’re afraid of us!

So when you hear about “attacks” like the recent one at a Jeffreys Bay surf competition, understand that we are the ones attacking their territory. We don’t own these oceans, yet we seem to love killing everything in them.

Sharks don’t even like humans — occasionally they just mistake us for something else. Maybe we deserve it. ★

Watch Video: Protea Banks Shark Dive


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(Click to watch Protea Banks Shark Dive – South Africa on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Margate, South Africa
Accommodation: Beachcomber Bay Hotel
Company: African Dive Adventures
Cost: R1450 ($116 USD)
Useful Notes: The best time to see tiger sharks at Protea Banks is between March & June. You need to have a history of at least 25 logged scuba dives for this adventure.

READ NEXT: Cage Diving With Great White Sharks

Would you ever try swimming with sharks? Are you a scuba diver? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

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The ocean around me is filled with sharks. Now they're approaching me from all directions. I was under 30 feet of water without a cage in South Africa.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

River Surfing In Montreal: Not Your Typical Surf Trip

Montreal Surfing

Surfing in Montreal

Montreal, Canada

When you think of Canada, does surfing come to mind? In the city of Montreal it’s possible to surf perpetual waves on the mighty Saint Lawrence River.

Known for its strong currents and whitewater rapids, Montreal’s Saint Lawrence River is a favorite spot for kayaking and rafting trips. But local surfers also take advantage of the unique conditions here.

Every day you’ll find a handful of surfers riding river waves.

Wanting to try it for myself, I filled a cooler with refreshing Cayman Jack Margaritas and drove up to Montreal for a few days of river surfing on the outskirts of the city.

I knew that after spending a few days in the sun, cooling off with the taste of Cayman Jack – blue agave nectar, organic limes and real cane sugar – would be exactly what I’d need.

Montreal Surfing

Not Your Typical Surf Spot

Cayman Jack

Stocked with Refreshments

River Surfing

Only a handful of rivers around the world boast standing waves large enough to ride using a surfboard. River waves are created by high volumes of water flowing over rocks, producing a large wave in the process.

Surfers are able to float into this wave and ride the water flow for as long as they want without actually moving anywhere — unlike with ocean waves.

Even experienced ocean surfers have trouble adapting to river waves.

Instead of a nice gradual slope, a river wave resembles more of a half-pipe shape. This unfortunately makes it easier to catch your surfboard nose in the water — resulting in a wipeout.

Montreal Surfing

Surfing a River!

Montreal Surfing

Hiking to the Lineup

Habitat 67 Surf Spot

There are a few different waves you can surf on the Saint Lawrence River. The one most people learn on is called “Bunny Wave” near the Lachine Rapids area. Once you master that, you can move up to Habitat 67.

Habitat 67 is a much larger & faster wave located behind a famous building with the same name. Surfers park by the tennis courts and walk down a dirt path in back.

Everyone was polite (it’s Canada!) and rode the wave for only a few minutes before waving the next person over. While waiting for my turn, I passed the time sharing surf stories and tasty Cayman Jack Margaritas with others in the lineup.

They appreciated a refreshing margarita before tackling another wave. Inspired by my partnership with Cayman Jack, I thought about how important it is to craft your own journey when you travel.

This means embracing everything that comes along with a new adventure. The planning, the anticipation, the challenges, the people you meet — the little pieces that produce a complete journey.

Montreal Surfing

Crafted by the Journey

Montreal Surfing

The Wave that Never Ends

How To Surf A River

River surfing can be challenging. The general process is to start upriver, paddle out, and carefully maneuver into position before turning backwards at the last second letting the current drag you into the sweet spot with the most whitewater.

Once you drop into this liquid half-pipe, paddle hard as you get sucked backwards. If you don’t put in enough effort, the river’s powerful surge will drag you over the top and down through the rapids.

Ride the surfboard on your stomach for a while first to get a feel for the wave.

Once you’re comfortable, pop up and maintain your balance. Because it’s a perpetual wave, you can theoretically ride it for as long as you want!

Montreal Surfing

Habitat 67 Building

Montreal Surfing

Making New Friends

More Difficult Than It Looks

Once you get pulled over the wave into the rapids (and you will), it’s important to keep ahold of your board and relax. Attempting to paddle against the current is a losing battle that will just make you exhausted.

As the rapids dissipate you swim over to the shore, hiking back to the starting point to try it all over again.

It took me at least 6 attempts to get the hang of it, and I have some surfing experience. Learning to surf a river isn’t easy — be patient!

Now you’d think that Montreal river water would be ice cold — but it actually wasn’t that bad. The water temperature can vary between the 60’s and 70’s (fahrenheit). A wetsuit is recommended if you’ll be there for a while.

Next time you’re in Montreal, rent a board or take a lesson and check it out! River surfing is a pretty unique adventure. ★

Watch Video: River Surfing Montreal


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(Click to watch River Surfing – Montreal, Canada on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Montreal, Canada
Company: KSF Surfing
Total Cost: $20 USD (3 hour rental)
Useful Notes: If you want to learn how to surf a river wave, KSF offers classes. It’s not the same as ocean surfing. If you already know how to surf, you can also rent a board from them and try on your own.

READ NEXT: How To Find Cheap Flights

Have you ever heard of river surfing before? Would you try it?


Cayman Jack

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When you think of Canada, does surfing come to mind? In the city of Montreal it's possible to surf perpetual waves on the mighty Saint Lawrence River.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

How To See (And Photograph) Northern Lights In Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland

How To See The Northern Lights in Iceland

Photography Tips

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see colorful lights dancing in the night sky. Learn how to find & photograph the amazing Northern Lights in Iceland.

Northern Lights In Iceland

Before I visited Iceland, I’d only witnessed the northern lights one other time back in college. The northern lights transfixed me for hours, watching this mysterious green glow of the magical aurora borealis dance over a high mountain range in Montana.

So trying to locate and take amazing photos of the northern lights in Iceland was a top priority for me — as it often is for many visitors to the country.

However many people don’t realize that this incredible phenomenon is elusive and unpredictable. Yes, even in a famous northern lights country like Iceland.

So to help you improve your chances for finding the northern lights, I wanted to share a few tips and photography techniques from my recent adventure in Iceland — and show you how I managed to get some great photos of this incredible natural phenomenon.

The Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights Iceland

Light Trails – 13 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2000

How To Find The Northern Lights In Iceland

So why are the northern lights so difficult to see, even in Iceland? Well, it’s because there are many different factors involved.

For a perfect northern lights experience, you need a combination of dark skies, clear weather, and strong aurora activity. Ensuring that all these requirements come together takes some planning.

Find Some Dark Skies

For the same reason star-gazing is better when it’s dark out, viewing the northern lights is best in the dark too. Light pollution from cities & towns hinders the experience. Yes, you can sometimes see the lights from Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. However you’ll have more luck in the countryside away from man-made light sources.

Wait For Clear Weather

If the weather is overly cloudy, you won’t be able to find the northern lights. So pay attention to the weather forecast, especially cloud cover (infrared satellite maps help a lot). While you might still see some aurora lights if it’s only partly cloudy, you’ll have the best chance when there are no clouds at all.

Check out cloud cover conditions around the world on MeteoStar.

Aurora Forecast

Because aurora activity comes down from the sun in space, scientists are able to predict how strong it will be by looking at our sun’s solar wind, and the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. The KP-Index ranges from 0-9 with ratings of 5 or greater considered solar storms. There are a few websites that specifically track it.

Iceland has a great site that predicts both cloud cover & aurora activity.

For worldwide aurora predictions, check out Space Weather Ovation.

Self-Drive vs. Group Tour

You should be able to go hunting for the northern lights on your own by renting a car in Iceland. Another option is renting a camper van, which allows you to camp out away from towns with light pollution.

Experience driving in snow is helpful if you’re visiting Iceland in the winter, as conditions can sometimes be very harsh. Big snowstorms are common.

I prefer exploring on my own, as it gives me the freedom to stay out all night or move locations on a whim.

However if you don’t feel comfortable driving in Iceland at night, there are plenty of organized northern lights tours available too.

Northern Lights Over Iceland

Iceland Plane Crash – 15 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2500

Best Time To See Northern Lights

The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is the fall/winter months from September to April. The absolute darkest months in Iceland are between November & February, but these months can also have the worst weather.

Remember that you need a combination of darkness away from towns, clear skies, and strong aurora activity to see the northern lights.

Witnessing Iceland’s northern lights during summer months is pretty rare, due to almost 20 hours of sunlight per day near the arctic circle.

The more time you spend in Iceland, the better your chances are of spotting the lights. If you’re only visiting on a 2 day stopover, you’ll need a LOT of luck to see them. I recommend spending at least 7 days in Iceland if you want to find the northern lights.

Even then it can be difficult. As an example, my photographer friend Ken Kaminesky has visited Iceland 5 times now and has still never seen them!

You also won’t see the northern lights if you’re bar hopping in Reykjavik. A primary reason why I was able to capture such great photos of the aurora borealis is because I stayed outside all night, for multiple nights, driving around searching for them. It takes some dedication.

What To Look For

Ok, a few more tips for finding the northern lights. While it may seem obvious, remember to look North! The lights dance along the magnetic bands of the arctic circle, so you need to keep your eyes North to see them.

Often the lights start off weak at first, slowly increasing in intensity. Weak aurora activity will look grey to the naked eye. Much like wispy clouds or fog moving in the wind. They can be easy to miss.

Aim your camera at the grey stuff and shoot a long-exposure photo (20 seconds or so). If those “clouds” come out green in your image, they aren’t clouds! You’re witnessing a weaker version of the northern lights.

The stronger the aurora activity, the brighter the colors will be.

The most common northern lights color you’ll see is green. However if you’re lucky, they can also be blue, red, and orange depending on which atmospheric gasses happen to be prevalent.

Northern Lights Iceland

Driving the Ring Road – 13 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2000

Northern Lights Photography

Once you find the aurora, capturing decent images of it is a whole new challenge. Here are some tips to help you photograph the northern lights in Iceland.

Photography Gear

In most photography situations, the quality of your gear doesn’t matter too much. However for northern lights & star photography it does. Here’s a list of recommended gear you’ll want to produce some great low-light shots.

  • Full Frame DSLR with Manual Mode & High ISO capability
  • Wide Angle Lens (24mm or wider) with Fast Aperture (2.8 – 4.0 minimum)
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • 2-3 Extra Batteries

Check Out My Travel Photography Gear Here »

You’ll want a quality camera (brand doesn’t matter) with a large sensor for minimal noise at high ISO settings. A wide angle lens aids in photographing large landscapes with the night sky. A fast aperture allows the maximum amount of ambient light to enter your lens.

A sturdy tripod lets you shoot long exposures without producing camera shake. Extra batteries give you flexibility to stay out all night waiting for peak activity — plus cold weather drains them faster.

Focusing Your Camera At Night

Even with the best camera gear and knowledge of the optimal settings, without proper focus, your northern lights photos won’t come out crisp/clear.

There are a few different methods to for focusing your camera at night, but my favorite is to focus on a distant landmark (like mountains) on the horizon.

This is easier to do around sunset or blue hour with some daylight left in the sky.

Most cameras have an infinity focus setting (∞), but it’s not always accurate. Zoom in as much as possible and adjust the focus manually. Once you have it locked in, remember to keep “auto focus” off and don’t touch the focus ring.

Northern Lights Camera Settings

I’ve included my northern lights camera settings under each photo in this post to give you some examples. But generally, because the intensity of the light and amount of movement is constantly changing, you’ll have to experiment with settings throughout the night.

Your camera should be set in Manual Mode, giving you the power to change each particular setting on it’s own.

IMAGE FORMAT
Most professional photographers shoot in RAW format rather than JPG, as it provides the maximum amount of information allowing for greater flexibility with post processing later.

APERTURE (F-STOP)
You want to capture as much light as possible, so use the widest (fastest) aperture your lens has. I used F4.0 in these photos, but F2.8 is even better if you have it. To learn more about aperture, click here.

SHUTTER SPEED
Depending on how fast the lights are moving, or how bright they are, you’ll want to adjust your shutter speed (exposure) accordingly. Anything from 10 seconds to 25 seconds is a good guess. The faster the lights are moving, the shorter the shutter speed should be.

ISO
The last setting you should adjust for northern lights photos is ISO. Increasing ISO allows your sensor to capture more light. The downside is that the higher your ISO is, the more sensor noise you’ll get, resulting in a grainy image. Settings around 2000 – 4000 should work best.

Northern Lights

Before Processing

Northern Lights

After Processing

Post Processing

Once you have a decent image, you can enhance your Iceland northern lights photos with post processing software. I personally use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, but there are others.

They all basically do the same things. How much processing you do is a matter of preference. Remember, art is subjective! You and I may not like the same things.

Post processing is a huge topic though, so I’ll just give you a super quick overview of what I did to enhance my northern lights images to really make them pop.

  • Adjust White Balance
  • Increase Exposure
  • Brighten Shadows
  • Brighten Whites
  • Darken Highlights
  • Increase Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation
  • Adjust Curves
  • Noise Reduction
  • Sharpening

Happy Aurora Hunting!

My Iceland northern lights photography in this post was captured during late November over a 3 day window of clear skies and strong aurora activity as I drove around Iceland’s famous Ring Road.

The lights would usually start off weak, increasing in intensity over the course of a few hours.

The best shots were captured at peak aurora activity, which usually only lasted for about 10-15 minutes. Patience & dedication is soooo important for northern lights photography… you need to stick around long enough for the good stuff to present itself.

With a little planning, a lot of waiting, and a dash of luck, you too can witness this amazing natural phenomenon in Iceland called the northern lights.

Seeing them in person is a magical experience — there’s nothing like it! ★

Traveling To Iceland Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

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Northern Lights in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Northern Lights in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE FROM ICELAND

Driving Iceland’s Ring Road
How To Find Iceland’s Famous Plane Crash
Epic Iceland Photography Locations

Have any questions about the northern lights in Iceland? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

How To Find The Cheapest Flights For Traveling

Book Cheap Flights ></p>
<p class=How To Find Cheap Flights

Travel Tips

Travel doesn’t have to be expensive, but airline tickets often are. Here are my favorite tricks for how to find cheap flights and get the best airline deals on your next vacation.

Flying can be expensive if you don’t know how to book cheap flights. The price of airline tickets is actually increasing as companies merge and fuel costs rise.

The flight is often the most expensive part of your trip…

How do we reduce that cost and find the cheapest tickets available?

After 7 years of constant travel, I’ve learned a few tricks that will help you save money on your next flight so you can arrive at your destination for a reasonable price. So pack your bags and let’s go!

Cheap Flight Search Engines

Searching For Amazing Flight Deals

1: Best Airfare Search Engines

Using an airfare meta search engine is quick & easy, and it can help you find the cheapest flights. These sites search for tickets across many different airlines, and offer helpful tools like price prediction, price maps based on destinations, fare alerts by email, and more.

It’s a good idea to check multiple flight search engines before you book a ticket. You never know which site may show you the best price and cheapest flights.

My Favorite Flight Search Sites:

  • Skyscanner
  • Momondo
  • Google Flights
  • Kayak

Generally, my first stop is Skyscanner when searching for cheap flights. When I find a good deal, before I book it, I’ll also double check Momondo, Google Flights, Kayak, and finally the airline’s official website.

You’ll never know if another site may have something cheaper available unless you check!

2: Sign Up For Cheap Fare Alerts

In addition to searching on multiple flight search engines, I also recommend you set up fare alerts for each one. Punch in the details about your intended destination, a range of dates, and let the website alert you via email when prices drop.

There are also a few dedicated airfare websites you should definitely check on a regular basis, or sign up for. These sites scour the internet for the best deals possible, doing all the work so you don’t have to.

  • HolidayPirates.com
  • TheFlightDeal.com
  • SecretFlying.com
  • AirfareWatchdog.com

Another good one, which is a paid subscription service, is Scott’s Cheap Flights. He has a whole team of people scouring the internet for deals, which they send to you via email.

3: Join Big Airline Newsletters

The best airfare deals are often available on the airlines’ own web sites, and many come in the form of promo codes and special offers.

Signing up to the airline’s newsletter gives you access to these deals, sometimes as big as 50% off the published fares.

Here’s a handy list of US based airline newsletters to sign up for.

I simply use Gmail’s email filters to automatically move these newsletters into a specific folder so my inbox isn’t overrun, checking it weekly for deals.

Flexible Dates

Flexible Travel Dates

4: Be Flexible With Dates/Times

The best time to book a flight has been found to be 4-10 weeks in advance of your trip. The best days to depart seem to be Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday because they’re off-peak with less passengers and lower fares.

Early morning flights or red-eyes (overnight) will usually be cheaper too.

Flights with long layovers are less expensive. Another way to save money on tickets is by flying during the off-season, or shoulder seasons, when there will be less demand.

For example? Iceland in the Fall/Winter, or Mexico in the Summer.

5: Book Tickets In January!

Some of the best flight deals I’ve ever seen are always available during the month of January & February. Round trip flights from the United States to Europe or Africa for under $500!?

You don’t need to travel during those months, it just means you should book your tickets then.

Airlines seem to love offering cheap flights in January. Probably because people are out of money after the holidays and they’re trying to boost demand. Keep this in mind when planning your travels next year, and set aside some cash to book your summer vacation flights in January.

6: Check Alternative Airports

If you happen to live near a few airports, remember to check the fares for each of them, as well as alternative airports or large hubs near your intended destination.

Sometimes traveling by bus to or from a different airport can save you a lot of money on flights.

In the past I’ve saved a few hundred dollars choosing a $10 bus ride to New York rather than flying directly out of Boston. It takes longer, so you’ll have to weigh the opportunity cost.

Budget Airlines

Use Budget Airlines

7: Try Flying Budget Airlines

In addition to searching the major airline booking sites, do research about which specific budget carriers fly to your intended travel destination. You may be surprised at just how cheap these flights can actually be…

Los Angeles to Thailand for only $307 on China Southern Airlines

Washington DC to Copenhagen for only $193 on WOW Airlines

Florida to Colombia for only $67 on Spirit Airlines

Pretty good, right?

Some budget airlines don’t allow big meta flight search engines to include their fares in search results, requiring you to visit the airline’s website.

Wikipedia has an excellent list of budget airlines around the world.

Many budget airlines charge extra for services that are normally free on larger airlines. Checked bags, snacks, drinks, legroom, credit card payment, printing a boarding pass, and anything else they can possibly think of. You can find this information on their website.

Cheap tickets on budget airlines are often non-refundable and can’t be changed — plus they may fly to smaller airports outside the main city, requiring additional travel time on the ground.

All these factors need to be weighed before you book a ticket.

8: Pick Destination Based On Price

The more flexible you are, the better your chances for finding cheap flights. So try flying to where the deals are!

Some websites make this easy like Google Explore & Skyscanner Inspire Map.

You are presented with a price map for different destinations based on your departure airport.

Being flexible allows you to plan where to go based on how cheap the tickets are. Flying to a random location can be a lot of fun, and you may end up discovering an area of the world you hadn’t planned on visiting.

Flexibility and spontaneity can save you money.

9: Use A Good VPN Service

One sneaky way airlines attempt to make the most profit is by charging different fares for people in different countries.

For example, booking domestic flights from outside the country will often be more expensive than booking inside the country.

Prices may change based on where the transaction is completed, or the “point-of-sale”. However you can beat them at their game using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide your location or pretend to be somewhere else.

I use Private Internet Access VPN because it’s so easy, affordable, has a smartphone app, and doesn’t slow down my connection.

Small Plane

Hitchhiking on Airplanes is Free!

10: Hitchhiking On Airplanes?

Did I ever tell you about the time I hitchhiked on an airplane? I know, I know — this isn’t practical for most people.

However it IS possible to hitchhike on small private planes from municipal airports. You need a lot of patience, some flexibility, and a little luck to find a pilot willing to take you.

I only mention this to show you that just because you think something is difficult or impossible, doesn’t mean that’s the case.

There’s even a website dedicated to flight-sharing if you pitch in for gas!

11: Book Flight Legs Separately

For long-distance flights, it can pay to book different legs separately rather than all at once. I discovered it was about $200 cheaper for me to fly from Boston to Copenhagen, followed by Copenhagen to Dublin on a budget airline, rather than book a multi-leg trip from Boston to Dublin all at once.

You may even save money on the same exact itinerary, just booking each section independently. Or by booking two one way tickets instead of one round trip. Spend 30 minutes experimenting and see what you come up with.

Remember though, it’s important to keep an eye on arrival & departure times for these flights to give yourself enough time to transfer.

Cheap Flight Tips & Tricks

So, there you have it. These are the tactics & resources I personally use to find cheap flights around the world. In fact I recently scored round-trip tickets from Boston to Dublin for only $614 using these techniques.

Like travel in general, flying doesn’t have to be expensive if you know how to find the best deals and are willing to actually put in the effort. Flexibility combined with spending an extra 30 minutes searching can save you hundreds of dollars. ★

Traveling Somewhere Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

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How To Find Cheap Flights. More at ExpertVagabond.com

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Have any questions about finding cheap flights? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Miami To Key West Road Trip: Things To Do Along The Way

Key West Road Trip

Road Trip to Key West

Key West, Florida

Driving down through the beautiful Florida Keys from Miami to Key West is a classic American road trip. Here’s what you can expect on the journey.

Key West is the Southernmost city in the United States, just a 4-hour drive from Miami on the scenic coastal Overseas Highway with plenty of interesting (and kitschy) things to do during the 110-mile trip, including crossing 42 different bridges.

No visit to South Florida is complete without road tripping down to the Conch Republic for a few days. Especially if you like pirates, key lime pie, water-sports, and live music!

I spent 4 days exploring the Florida Keys with my friends Steph & Lauren. These were our favorite things to do on a road trip from Miami to Key West.

Key West Road Trip

Rocking the Drop Top Jeep

Key West Road Trip

Driving Down from Miami

Rent A Jeep In Miami

The best way to experience the scenic Florida Keys is behind the wheel of a convertible, like the fun Jeep Wrangler we rented with Tons Of Fun Tours.

They make it easy by delivering it to the airport or your hotel in Miami. Once you have it, just drop the top, remove some clothing, turn up the volume, and enjoy the drive!

We made our way down to Marathon Key under the warm sun stopping for photos and quirky souvenirs, like a stuffed shark who would become our mascot for the rest of the trip.

Key West Road Trip

Feeding Tarpon at Robbie’s

Feeding Wild Tarpon

Dangling my arm over the water, a massive sea creature suddenly leaped out and wrapped its mouth around my hand to the horror of screaming onlookers.

Growing up to 8 feet long and weighing over 200 pounds, Tarpon is huge game fish that live in the tropical waters off the Florida Keys. Fishermen from around the world travel here just for a chance to catch (and release) one of these monsters.

However, you can also buy a bucket of bait and hand-feed these giant fish from the docks of Robbie’s Restaurant on Islamorada. Be careful, they have small teeth that will leave marks!

It’s a must-do experience for any road trip from Miami down to Key West.

Key West Road Trip

Faro Blanco Resort

Key West Road Trip

Fish Sandwich at Tarpon Creek Bar & Grill

Marathon Key

While you could drive directly from Miami to Key West in about 4 hours, there’s a lot of cool stuff to see around the rest of the Florida Keys too.

I recommend driving down over the course of 2 days, spending a night in Marathon before continuing on to Key West.

That’s exactly what we did, booking a room at the beautiful Faro Blanco Resort to break up the drive.

While in Marathon, make sure to grab some lunch at Tarpon Creek Bar & Grill and dinner at the Lighthouse Grill. Both serve up all kinds of tasty fresh fish caught locally.

Key West Road Trip

Old Railroad Bridge

Key West Road Trip

Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge

Driving over the vibrant blue ocean for miles on a bridge that never seems to end was one of my favorite parts of road tripping the Florida Keys.

The Seven Mile Bridge was originally constructed in 1912 for railroad traffic.

These days you drive across it on your way to Key West, or park just north of the bridge at Mile Marker 47 in Marathon and go walking or biking over to Pigeon Key along the older span.

Key West Road Trip

Fort Zachary State Park

Key West Road Trip

Sailing in Key West

Things To Do In Key West

Learn To Sail

Gather a few friends and charter a boat for sailing lessons with Sunset Sail Key West like we did. Explore the islands powered only by the wind. They offer day trips, sunset sails, and overnight excursions.

Go Snorkeling

Dive into the ocean and swim with sea turtles, nurse sharks, parrot fish, and spiny lobsters on the shallow reefs around Key West. Join a boat tour or snorkel from the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

Hemingway House Cats

Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West during the 1920’s, and you can visit his old house, and make friends with the 50 or so six-toed cats that live there. Perfect for crazy cat lovers (like me).

Key West Road Trip

Key West Sunset

Key West Southernmost Point

Southernmost Point

Key West Sunsets

The sunsets in Key West are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Grab a beer and watch in awe from Mallory Square as the sun drops below the Gulf of Mexico, painting the sky in brilliant shades of pink, purple, yellow, and orange.

Southernmost Point Buoy

You can’t visit Key West and not stop by the the southernmost point in the continental United States, which is marked by a red & white concrete pillar. The line for photos is long unless you get there early in the morning!

Bar Hopping Duval Street

Duval Street may only be a mile long, but it’s packed with small bars & old Victorian mansions. Pop in and listen to one of the many live bands playing Jazz, Cuban, or Salsa music. Don’t miss the Green Parrot Bar or the (clothing optional) Garden of Eden!

Key West Road Trip

Key West Marriott Beachside

Where To Stay In Key West

While we were in Key West, we stayed at the Key West Marriott Beachside. The suite included a kitchen, which was great for preparing a late-night snack after coming home from the bars on Duval Street.

For other options, here are my recommendations:

Hostels In Key West

Seashell International Hostel – Excellent central location, but a bit cramped. Not many options for backpackers though!

Hotels In Key West

Key West Marriott Beachside – Waterfront location, super nice, full suites with kitchens available.

Courtney Place Historic Cottages – Charming, comfortable, and close to everything. Very friendly staff.

COUPON CODE! For a special $30 off your next Booking.com hotel stay over $60, make sure to use my special link.
Key West Food

Fresh Caught Hogfish at Bagatelle Restaurant

What To Eat In Key West

One of the best meals I ate in Key West was at Bagatelle Restaurant, located in a beautiful old building on Duval. Locally caught Hogfish with jasmine rice and pineapple salsa. Yum!

Key lime pie was born in Key West during the early 20th century. It’s made using the small key limes native to the area, more flavorful than regular limes. The Key Lime Pie Company makes a good one! ★

Traveling To Key West Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Watch Video: Key West Road Trip


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More Information

Location: Key West, Florida
Accommodation: Key West Marriott Beachside
Useful Notes: The drive from Miami to Key West takes about 4 hours without stopping, but you’ll want to plan for many stops. You’ll get the best weather during winter high season. Summer can be humid and rainy with the occasional hurricane.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Miami & The Keys
Suggested Reading: Key West: A Quirky Slice Of America

READ MORE FROM FLORIDA

Fantasy Fest In Key West
Learning To Sail In Key West

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Key West Road Trip Guide. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about Key West? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Learning How To Sail Around Key West

Key West

Sailing Captain Matt

Key West, Florida

Slicing through emerald water under the sun, we speed into the backcountry with full sails & wide smiles. Dolphins play off the port bow. It’s a beautiful day in the Florida Keys.

There’s something magical about cruising the ocean powered only by the wind. I think it’s the silence that makes this ancient form of transportation so special. No engine sounds, no exhaust.

Creaking wood and flapping canvas is all you can hear.

Just you and the wind, free to travel in any direction you please.

Key West

Exploring Islands

Key West

Learning to Sail

Sailing Key West

I’d just driven down from Miami with Stephanie Be and her friend Lauren. A road trip to Key West with new friends. Our mission in the Conch Republic?

Stuff ourselves with key lime pie, drink margaritas, and learn to sail!

Captain Seth & Captain Kala from Sunset Sail Key West offered to show us the ropes on board their 33’ foot long, green-hulled Glander Sloop named “High Tide”. A sturdy, small ship with the ability to navigate shallow waters.

To fuel our ocean adventure, the sailboat was stocked with fresh fruit, hummus, and a few bottles of ice-cold Cayman Jack Margaritas.

Key West

Enjoying the Ocean

Wind Powered Transportation

During our 13 mile voyage, Seth & Kala explained the mechanics of sailing — moving at an angle with the wind, always slightly left or right of your intended destination.

The art of tacking requires sailing in a zig-zag direction to reach your goal, flipping the sail from one side to the other — without knocking someone overboard as the boom swings across the boat.

You must use all 5 senses to find the most efficient course.

Listening for a fluttering sail that’s not completely full. Watching ripples on the water to prepare for gusts. The sensation of wind blowing the back of your ear…

Key West

Sailing Around Key West

Key West

Cheers to Adventure!

Snorkeling With Lobsters

A steady 10-15 knot breeze sent us gliding over nutrient rich, emerald green water. Maneuvering through a particularly shallow section of reef, carefully threading our craft between two buoys marking a narrow channel.

Get it wrong, and we’d run-aground. With a motor this isn’t a problem, but trying to zig-zag your way to the correct spot on a wind-powered sailboat is more challenging.

Once through, we dropped anchor and leaped head-first into the bathtub-warm water for a bit of snorkeling! Swimming around a large patch of live sponges — the perfect hiding place for Spiny Lobsters in the Florida Keys.

Key West

Snorkeling with Lobsters

Key West

Famous Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

After snorkeling, we sailed back to port enjoying our cool hand-crafted Cayman Jack margaritas in the hot sun. Celebrating a successful ocean adventure with new friends!

But then hunger began to set in…

Luckily this is Key West! Famous for their tasty Key Lime Pie.

We stopped into the Key Lime Pie Co. and ordered a round. Of pies. Which happened to pair perfectly with our refreshing Cayman Jack margaritas, also made with organic key limes.

There is no such thing as too much key lime in Key West. ★

Watch Video: Key West Road Trip

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More Information

Location: Key West, Florida
Company: Sunset Sail Key West
Accommodation: Key West Marriott Beachside
Useful Notes: Captain Seth offers daytime sailboat charters along with sunset trips and overnight excursions. Split it with other travelers for the best value. Snacks and water are provided, however you’ll have to pack the margaritas yourself!

READ NEXT: Surfing Siargao In The Philippines

Have you ever been sailing before? Would you like to learn how? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Cayman Jack

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Slicing through emerald water under the sun, we speed into the backcountry with full sails & wide smiles. Dolphins play off the port bow.

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Fortress Of Solitude: Unbelievable Crystal Ice Caves In Iceland

Iceland Ice Caves

Crystal Ice Caves in Iceland

Vatnajokull Glacier, Iceland

We crawl slowly on hands & knees into a long frozen chamber, under a brilliant cathedral of crystal blue waves. Superman would feel right at home in this ice cave.

When the Man of Steel wants to get away from the hustle & bustle of Metropolis, he flies to his “Fortress of Solitude” hidden in the Arctic. A magnificent crystal castle built using Krypton alien technology.

What if I told you Superman’s crystal fortress is real?

Deep under Iceland’s massive Vatnajökull Glacier, beautiful caves of ice are formed by rivers of meltwater.

Too dangerous to visit in the spring & summer due to a threat of collapse, cold winter temperatures strengthen the ice and make exploration possible.

A fellow photographer convinced me to go during my Iceland road trip.

Need a place to stay in Iceland? Click here for accommodation deals.
Driving to Glacier

Traveling to the Glacier

Iceland Glacier

Massive Walls of Ice

Ice Cave Photography Tour

Iceland’s incredible glacier ice caves move or completely disappear with the shifting ice sheet each year. However one man seeks them out and guides people to their location.

Expert local guide Einar Sigurðsson has been running photography tours into these icy caverns for the past 20 years, and knows the glacier better than most. His family has a long history here.

Driving over rugged Icelandic terrain and through small rivers in Einar’s 4×4 van, snow covered Vatnajökull glacier appears in the distance. The ice has retreated a lot over the past few years, so it takes longer to reach the edge.

We begin our ice cave adventure by strapping on helmets and ducking into a small entrance, forced to crawl on the cold, black volcanic dirt.

Once inside though, the views are absolutely breathtaking.

Iceland Ice Caves

Dazzling Blue Support Pillar

Ice Cave Tour

Exploring Glacial Ice Formations

Amazing Blue Ice Caverns

A long tunnel of ice boasting many different shades of translucent blue, white, and inky black stretches out before us. Thousands of years of snowfall compressed into frozen sculpted waves over our heads.

Gradually the tunnel grows large enough with room to stand up.

This densely packed glacial ice glows blue due to a lack of air bubbles which normally scatter colors of the spectrum as sunlight filters down from above. Layers of black volcanic ash are trapped in these ice formations, a remnant from previous eruptions.

We spent a few hours exploring the cave, setting up our tripods for the perfect shot. It was nice to be in here with a group of fellow photographers who understand the importance of patience & attention to detail.

When Einar discovers a new ice cave, he names it. This happened to be called the “Northern Lights Cave”, named after ribbons of deep blue frozen water surrounded by black ash.

It looked very similar to Iceland’s aurora borealis dancing in the night sky.

Iceland Ice Caves

Magic Ice Caves in Iceland

Ice Caves in Iceland

Northern Lights Ice Cave

Vatnajökull Glacier

Covering 8100 square kilometers (5000 square miles) Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest icecap in Europe by volume. The ice is up to 1000 meters thick in some places.

Located in the South East, Vatnajokull covers over 8% of Iceland.

There are seven different volcanoes hidden underneath the glacier. I actually flew over one of them while it was erupting, called Bardarbunga Volcano. This unique combination of fiery volcanoes & icy glaciers is why Iceland is called The Land of Fire & Ice

Superman sure picked a great spot for his vacation home!

Exploring and photographing Iceland’s crystal ice caves was an incredible experience. If you’re traveling through Iceland in the winter, you really should’t miss them.

Nature’s phenomenal beauty never ceases to amaze me. ★

Where To Stay

The closest town to the ice caves is Höfn, about an hour away. If you’re wondering where to stay in Iceland for a trip to the caves, here are my recommendations:

Budget Accommodation

H̦fn Hostel РAn environmentally friendly hostel with sea views, located an hour away in the village of H̦fn.

Loft Hostel – Located in Reykjavik near the bus station, these luxury dorms have en-suite bathrooms and excellent wifi.

Mid-Range Accommodation

Hotel H̦fn РLocated in H̦fn about an hour away, this hotel offers modern rooms with glacier & sea views.

Rey Apartments – Modern and affordable apartment in the heart of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.

I also enjoy using AirBnB from time to time. Make sure to read my article about how to find cheap hotels too.

Traveling To Iceland Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

More Information

Location: Hof, Iceland
Company: Local Guide Of Vatnajokull
Cost: 18,900 ISK (about $165 USD)
Useful Notes: Iceland’s ice caves are only safe to visit from November until March. Some years they are better than others, as the glacier is always changing. Einar chooses which cave to explore depending on conditions that day.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

READ MORE FROM ICELAND

My Complete Iceland Road Trip Guide
How To Find The Northern Lights In Iceland
Epic Iceland Photography Locations

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Visiting the crystal ice caves in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about Iceland’s ice caves? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Surfing Siargao: Ocean Ecstasy In The Philippines

Siargao Island Surfing

Surfing in the Philippines

Siargao Island, Philippines

I’m paddling away from a four foot wall of crystal blue water, rising up from the ocean and bearing down on my position. I feel a push as it catches my board, faster & faster.

In one quick motion I hop up in a crouch, knees bent, feet wide, arms out, pointing right as the peak of the wave begins to crash & churn on my left.

Dragging my right hand through the water as I race down its face to freedom.

If I had to describe surfing to someone, it would include the word ecstasy.

Surfing In The Philippines

Welcome to Siargao, a tropical island paradise known for its surfing in the Pearl of the Orient Seas. Its just one small island among the 7000 that make up the Philippines.

Yet Siargao boasts a unique mix of excellent surfing, relaxed vibes, deserted beaches, warm water, and a practically unlimited supply of fresh coconuts.

If you’re a surfer, or want to learn, you really need to visit Siargao.

I spent 3 weeks exploring this little slice of heaven and didn’t want to leave. That’s how incredible the island is!

General Luna Siargao

General Luna, Siargao

Siargao Island Paradise

Where is Siargao Island? It’s located in the South East of the country. They have a small airport that you can fly into from Cebu, or another option is the 3 hour ferry from the city of Surigao (careful, SURIGAO and SIARGAO sound similar but are different places!).

I flew from Cebu to Siargao Island in a small plane via Cebu Pacific Airways. Once there, it’s easy to jump on a shuttle to General Luna, the island’s main surf-town.

The 40 minute drive provides a glimpse at life on this island as you pass simple thatched roofed homes on stilts, rice fields, lush tropical forests, barefoot children and large carabao (water buffalo) on the side of the road.

Siargao Boardwalk

Boardwalk at Cloud 9

Siargao Cloud 9

Famous Cloud 9 Surf Break

Surfing In The Philippines

What really sets Siargao apart from other islands in the Philippines is the surfing! With over 15 different surf breaks around the island, both on & offshore, there are plenty of options for every skill level.

Just rent a small motorcycle with board rack for $8 a day.

Surfboard rentals cost about the same. The selection isn’t the greatest (boards are difficult to ship here), but Fat Lips Surf Shop has decent stuff.

To reach offshore breaks you need to hire a local outrigger boat, called a banca, to take you there. Round up a group or wait at the beach for other surfers to join you. It only costs about $5 per person.

Your captain will hang out on the boat (or go surfing with you) until you’re finished. How cool is that? One of our captains was only 15 years old!

Siargao Island Surfing

Time To Hit the Waves (Shot on GoPole Evo)

Siargao Surf Breaks

There are many different surf spots around Siargao. I’ve listed some of the most popular below. My favorites were offshore — usually less crowded due to the need for hirig a boat to reach them.

The boat ride adds to the surfing experience anyway!

Cloud 9

Cloud 9 is the most popular break on Siargao, and the location of some international surf competitions. It’s a powerful high-tide reef break that produces consistent barrels both left & right. For advanced surfers only.

Quicksilver

Located next to Cloud 9, this right-hand wave is smaller, but still breaks on the same shallow reef. It can often be crowded.

Stimpy’s

If you like lefts, Stimpy’s is great. It’s a 10 minute boat ride offshore, which means it can be less crowded. There are actually two breaks here, the inside one is larger. Best at low to mid tide.

Rock Island

Nearby to Stimpy’s is Rock Island, pictured in the first image. A similar setup only this one is a right, and only good when the wind is just right. It’s a sweet spot for photos with that giant rocky outcropping in the background.

Daku Reef

Daku is another offshore right-hand break, about 10 minutes by boat from the local fish market. When it’s good, this is one of my favorite waves. The current is strong though, so it can be a long paddle back after you catch one.

Cemetery

I actually never made it out to Cemetery. Located in front of an actual cemetery, it’s a long 15 minute paddle from shore. But if you’re willing to get out there, you’ll be rewarded with no crowd. Best at low tide.

G1

Many surfing classes go here, as well as locals, so it can be crowded. It’s a 15 minute motorcycle ride away from General Luna. G1 breaks both left & right, and is best at high tide. There is another break right beside it too.

Siargao Island Boat

Captain Lito & His First Mate

Siargao Island Surfing

Surfing with PrAna Board Shorts

Riding Waves With PrAna

Before traveling to the Philippines for my Siargao surfing trip, the adventure enthusiasts at PrAna hooked me up with their colorful Seaton Board Shorts, which I wore almost every day!

No need for a shirt and shoes while island hopping in the Philippines…

Surfing has quickly become my favorite adventure sport. It’s not easy to learn, but with a few lessons and lots of practice, you’ll be completely hooked.

The better you get, the more addicted you become.

It’s the challenge of learning to read and move with the water. Making split-second decisions in a fast-paced environment. The threat of danger should a wave send you crashing into the reef below.

The unmatched feeling of accomplishment after a successful ride!

Sunset Philippines

Stunning Siargao Sunsets

Visiting Siargao

While the waves are rockin’ at Siargao year round, most people who visit for surfing do so in the fall (September/October). You’ll find all kinds of guesthouses, bungalows, and surf resorts around General Luna for as low as $10 a night.

I stayed at a few different places, but my favorite was Kermit Surf Resort. Proper island-style accommodation with a super friendly hostel-like vibe & common area. They make excellent wood-fired pizza and other authentic Italian dishes (the Philippines is not really known for its food).

In fact writing about Siargao is just convincing me to go back.

The slow pace of life, cheap accommodation, incredible surfing, lack of tourists, and laid back attitudes makes it one of my favorite island destinations. Oh, and did I mention the epic sunsets every afternoon? ★

More Information

Location: Siargao Island, Philippines
Accommodation: Kermit Siargao
Useful Notes: Even if you’re not a surfer, there are other things to do on Siargao. Like island hopping, snorkeling, diving, sunbathing, kayaking mangroves, etc. Bring cash, there are no ATMs in General Luna. WiFi isn’t super reliable either.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Philippines
Suggested Reading: When The Elephants Dance

READ NEXT: Climbing Bangkok’s Ghost Tower

Have you ever been surfing before? Would you try it? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Prana

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.